Cornwall ON – The last week has seen a few changes deep within the Prime Minister’s Office.
I will begin by saying that staff changes at this time of the year are not unusual as the House has recessed for the summer. Nor is PMO immune from this happening as people are let go, others move to less stressful positions and some simply want to get back their life again and they choose to leave politics all together.
People don’t realize how demanding these jobs can be. Whether you serve as a ministerial staffer or in PMO, the days are long and gruelling. It’s not unusual to start your day at 4:30 AM and end it at 11PM with a seven day work week being the norm. This puts tremendous physical stress on someone as well as wrecking havoc on relationships and family. After a number of years living this type of life style, you simply burn out.
This last week saw Dave Penner leave. Officially the Director of Appointments, Penner was responsible for overseeing the process that appointed qualified individuals to the boards and institutions across government. In effect the modern day equivalent to Marjory LeBreton in the Mulroney years. But Penner had another role which will make his loss much more important in the long run.
He was the “wagon master” for the Conservative election team. The person who looked after the day to day nitty gritty of keeping the leader’s tour buses running on time, properly stocked and heading to the right places. Leaving as he is for Canada Post, this will probably remove him from that function in future elections.
Jason Plotz, the Manager of Issues Research, is one of the unsung heroes in PMO. He served as my right hand for many years, starting with the old PC Party back around 2001.
A master at opposition research, he could have an opposition MP’s quote on any topic on your desk within seconds of it being needed. It was Plotz who helped to make our Rapid Response team so effective and efficient.
Those are the definite departures. Two more are being talked about but nothing firm is out there yet. The word around PMO is that Darrel Reid, Harper’s Deputy Chief of Staff is also leaving, supposedly for the Manning Institute. If true this removes another key player on Harper’s staff. His career goes back to the Manning years, but he was hired as a policy researcher by this PMO. Eventually taking over the policy unit and still keeping an eye on it as the Deputy Chief of Staff. As everyone knows, not much happens policy wise in this government without the sign off of PMO. Thus his influence was felt across the government.
The other rumoured departure is that of Guy Giorno, Harper’s Chief of Staff. Whether the chattering is based on fact or simply wishful thinking on the part of a few will remain to be seen. Hired in July 2008, he is at the two year mark which is about average for when Chief of Staffs tend to move on.
Three or four key players departing at the same time will result in a significant shake up in PMO and in the Conservative election war room. It will be interesting to watch how this all plays out. Partisan politics can be a vicious game, but no matter which party you are in, people join it to try to make this country a better place for everyone. I wish them all the best.